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New ultra-miniaturized microendoscope produces higher-quality images at a fraction of the size

December 6, 2019
Imaging results

The image above shows imaging results from the study. Images A through C show beads on a slide viewed through a bulk microscope. D through F show the beads as viewed through a conventional, lens-based microendoscope. G through I show the beads as seen by the new lensless microendoscope. These raw images are purposefully scattered, but provide important information about light that can be used in computational reconstruction to create clearer images, shown in J through L. (Image: Courtesy of Mark Foster)

Johns Hopkins engineers have created a new lens-free, ultra-miniaturized endoscope—the width of only a few human hairs—that is capable of producing high-quality images.

Their findings were published today in Science Advances.

“Usually, you have to sacrifice either size or image quality. We’ve been able to achieve both with our microendoscope,” says Mark Foster, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University and the study’s corresponding author.

Microendoscopes are designed to examine neurons as they fire in the brains of animal test subjects, and accordingly must be minuscule in scale yet powerful enough to produce a clear image. Most standard microendoscopes are about half a millimeter to a few millimeters in diameter and require larger, more invasive lenses to achieve high-quality imaging. While lensless microendoscopes exist, the optical fiber that scans an area of the brain pixel by pixel frequently bends and loses imaging ability when moved.

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